Understanding annual leave entitlements

Gemma O'Connor - Head of Service

July 08 2023

First published: June 30th 2020
Last updated: July 8th 2023

Annual leave: Employer and Employee Entitlements

Annual leave is an important statutory employee entitlement.

If you don’t get your employees’ holidays right, you risk irritating staff and in some cases even suffering a WRC claim.

The best way to manage annual leave is to know exactly what your staff are entitled to and to ensure they take regular holidays. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to ensure you’re never short-staffed and help your employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.

If you don’t have an effective system for managing annual leave, you can find yourself dealing with a range of HR issues, like surpluses of annual leave at the end of the year, burnt out employees and frustrated employees who have holiday requests denied.

Annual leave policy

Good HR management is underpinned by robust policies and procedures. Your annual leave policy should confirm what annual leave entitlements your staff receive, how much notice they need to give and how they make an annual leave request.

An informal approach to annual leave requests tends to undermine your workforce planning efforts.

An online calendar or HR software can help both you and your staff plan their holidays around busy holiday times and busy trading periods.

Dealing with an annual leave backlog

If for whatever reason, you find yourself with a backlog of annual leave toward the latter half of the year, you will need to take action to ensure staff receive their annual entitlement.

The first thing you need to confirm is if annual leave has accrued throughout the leave year. Ireland’s working time legislation entitles all employees to four weeks’ paid annual leave during any given leave year.

If you’ve had to lay-off staff temporarily for example, these employees will not accrue annual leave while they’re not working. Likewise, part-time staff will have a reduced entitlement based on the number of hours they work.

However, it’s important to remember that if employees complete 1,365 hours of work during the leave year despite being laid off or part-time, they remain entitled to four weeks’ paid annual leave.

Another option for employers is to allow the employee to carryover their unused leave into the following leave year. The working time legislation allows you to agree that the employee uses their surplus annual leave in the first 6 months of the following leave year.

Section 20 of the Organisation of Working Time Act

Under Section 20 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, employers do have a right to decide when employees take their annual leave.

Before enforcing this right, you need to consider the following employee circumstances as well as your own work requirements:

  • The need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities.
  • The opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee.

To rely on Section 20, you must also provide employees with at least one month’s notice before the start of the proposed period of annual leave.

While not often relied upon, Section 20 may sometimes be necessary for employers who encounter workforce planning problems during the leave year.

Annual leave advice from HR experts

Annual leave is a fundamental part of HR activity in every Irish business. While it may seem straightforward, it’s often a flashpoint for staff when an annual leave request is denied.

Speak with a HR expert today on 1800 719 216 for instant advice on any annual leave issues affecting your business.

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